Uncertain future of water diversions from the Great Lakes - only 1% of the great lakes water system is renewable per year, and the water levels have gone up and down in the past significantly - in essence, there is no margin in the system for withdrawl of water outside of the Great Lakes Basin
Editorial from The Toronto Star
Sep. 25, 2004. 01:00 AM
Troubled waters on Great Lakes
When it comes to water, the 40 million Canadians and Americans who live within the boundaries of the Great Lakes Basin are truly blessed. Although they represent only two-thirds of 1 per cent of the world's population, they have access to 20 per cent of all fresh water on the planet.
While those numbers suggest we have a vast reservoir of water to share with others, the Great Lakes are for all intents and purposes a non-renewable resource. Just 1 per cent of Great Lakes' water is renewed each year. Draw off too much, and there could be dire consequences for the entire Great Lakes ecosystem and every community it now supports.
That threat to the health of the Great Lakes took on a new dimension in the mid-1980s when some Canadian businesspeople proposed bulk export of Great Lakes water by tanker.
In response, Ottawa and Washington introduced new laws in an attempt to safeguard the Great Lakes. For its part, the Canadian government amended the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and International Boundary Water Regulations to prohibit any removals from Canadian boundary waters of the Great Lakes.
The U.S. chose a different route. Its 1986 Water Resources Development Act allowed for the diversion of Great Lakes water, but only with the agreement of all governors of the eight states that border the Great Lakes.
This asymmetry in U.S. and Canadian laws has recently taken on a special significance because demands for diversions are increasingly coming from communities outside the Great Lakes Basin, but in the Great Lakes states, such as Lowell, Ind. and New Berlin, Wisc.
In part because the conflicting interests of the state governors do not coincide with the interests of Ontario, which has its own ban on Great Lakes water transfers, or Quebec, with its jurisdiction over most of the St. Lawrence River, it has fallen to these two provinces and the eight states to work out a Great Lakes management agreement. Among other things, the accord would set a standard for water withdrawals from the Great Lakes.